Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin remembers the law enforcement halt that designed him sweat

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin remembers the police stop that made him sweat

A law enforcement quit could have price tag previous NASA astronaut Leland Melvin his vocation in house in advance of he ever bought begun.



a dog wearing a costume: Melvin's now-famous NASA portrait features his two rescue dogs, Jake and Scout, who he secretly smuggled into NASA for the photo shoot.


© NASA
Melvin’s now-renowned NASA portrait features his two rescue dogs, Jake and Scout, who he secretly smuggled into NASA for the photograph shoot.

Melvin, who was by no means fearful launching into area on two Area Shuttle Atlantis missions to assistance establish the Intercontinental Room Station, by no means realized what was going to occur when the cops pulled him around.

“I have been on this rocket with millions of kilos of thrust and not when was I fearful of heading to area,” reported Melvin, who is Black. “It can be when I have been stopped by law enforcement officers that I didn’t even know … I was beginning to sweat and just holding the steering wheel seriously tough.”



Léopold Eyharts, Stanley G. Love, Stephen Frick, Leland D. Melvin, Rex J. Walheim, Hans Schlegel posing for a photo: Melvin was with nine other crew members on the space station in February 2008. On the left side of the frame, from top to bottom, are astronauts Daniel Tani, Stanley Love and the European Space Agency's Leopold Eyharts. In the center, from the top, are astronauts Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Steve Frick, Peggy Whitson and Alan Poindexter. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko of Russia's Federal Space Agency is top right and below him is ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel.


© NASA
Melvin was with 9 other crew associates on the space station in February 2008. On the remaining side of the frame, from major to base, are astronauts Daniel Tani, Stanley Love and the European Area Agency’s Leopold Eyharts. In the heart, from the leading, are astronauts Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Steve Frick, Peggy Whitson and Alan Poindexter. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko of Russia’s Federal Place Agency is major proper and under him is ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel.

“Each father in the Black group has a dialogue with their son to explain to them that if you get stopped by an officer, you know, you believe the position, which is 10-2 (arms on the wheel), seem straight forward,” he added. “You tell the officer, you know, you happen to be serious respectful, you say you happen to be achieving for your apparent factors.”

Melvin spoke Monday in the course of a panel celebrating Black life in the space field throughout the 2020 Virtual Human beings to Mars Summit hosted by Examine Mars, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the human exploration of Mars.



Leland D. Melvin wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: NASA astronaut Leland Melvin


© NASA
NASA astronaut Leland Melvin

Panelists — who shared their personal ordeals and talked over the Black Lives Make a difference motion, the dying of George Floyd, and subsequent protests — integrated former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Deputy Supervisor of Commercial Lunar Payload Companies Camille Alleyne and Danielle Wood, director of the Area Enabled Research Group in MIT’s Media Lab.

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Melvin can however don’t forget a person traffic prevent when he was a college student at Heritage Large Faculty in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he graduated in 1982.

“I was in a auto with my girlfriend and a law enforcement officer rolled up on us,” Melvin claimed. “He took her out of the vehicle and advised her that I was raping her since he preferred me to go to jail.

“And you know, when Black adult men get into the prison program, that they truly under no circumstances get out and have a 2nd opportunity. I was heading to higher education on scholarship and want to be a chemistry key.”



Leland D. Melvin standing in front of a building: Melvin aboard the space station in 2009.


© NASA
Melvin aboard the area station in 2009.

Melvin urged people to make guaranteed they’re not part of the difficulty by contributing to racism, asking persons to evaluate each what they’re carrying out to harm and how they can assistance struggle racism.

The route to space

Luckily that quit failed to derail his vocation. Melvin ended up logging a lot more than 565 hours in house, but house was not his first alternative.

During the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, Melvin said he was the “antenna engineer,” keeping the antennas for his parents though they watched it.

“And the subsequent day all the children in the neighborhood stated, ‘Do you want to be an astronaut?’ No, I do not see somebody who seems to be like me,” Melvin recalled.



Leland D. Melvin sitting on a blue surface: Melvin read to first and third grade students from the book "The Moon Over Star" at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in honor of Black History Month, and to highlight the importance of reading.


© Carla Cioffi/NASA
Melvin go through to first and 3rd quality college students from the book “The Moon More than Star” at Ferebee-Hope Elementary Faculty on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in honor of Black Background Thirty day period, and to highlight the importance of examining.

5 blocks down the avenue from where Melvin grew up, Arthur Ashe learned how to perform tennis. Ashe, the only Black guy to gain singles titles at Wimbledon, the US Open up and the Australian Open, turned professional in 1969. Ashe was also the initially Black player picked to the United States Davis Cup workforce.

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Leland D. Melvin wearing a uniform: NASA astronaut Leland D. Melvin wasn't scared to fly into space.


© Mark Sowa/NASA
NASA astronaut Leland D. Melvin wasn’t scared to fly into house.

“My dad talked about his perseverance his athleticism, his intelligence,” Melvin stated. “‘I want you to be like him.’ It wasn’t till I bought to NASA, when a buddy said, ‘You’d be a great astronaut.'”

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Melvin didn’t fill out an application until finally his close friend, Charlie Camarda, bought into the astronaut system. “If that man can get in, I can get in, and that’s when I applied.”

Melvin was drafted in 1986 to enjoy in the Nationwide Soccer League for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys but pulled his hamstrings and failed to conclude up playing any regular year game titles.

In 1989, he commenced doing the job at NASA Langley Study Middle in the Fiber Optic Sensors team of the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Department, according to NASA. He was picked as an astronaut candidate in 1998.

In addition to serving as an astronaut, Melvin has also headed NASA’s schooling program, co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education Job Pressure and chaired the Intercontinental Room Training Board.

Contrasting moments

Melvin acquired about the dying of George Floyd although in Florida for the launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

“I see this Black guy getting his existence snuffed out, stating he cannot breathe,” Melvin claimed. “And when I read him contacting for his mom, that’s when I began crying since I assumed about my mom. I thought about if that was me, currently being the lifestyle snuffed out of me.”

Floyd’s dying as now-former law enforcement officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for just about 9 minutes was in sharp contrast with the achievement of launching American astronauts from US soil on US rockets for the very first time due to the fact 2011.

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“If we can (mail people to the Intercontinental Room Station), we can do anything. We can resolve these difficulties.”

And it prospects back again to the requirement of diversity, Melvin mentioned.

Melvin stated his “aha” minute in space arrived unexpectedly. He predicted it would transpire as he served set up the European Place Agency’s Columbus Laboratory on the Intercontinental Place Station in 2008.

But it was not until NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson invited Melvin about to the Russian phase of the station to share a meal. The crew incorporated astronauts with Russian, French, German, African American and Asian American backgrounds and was hosted by Whitson — the very first woman commander of the place station, Melvin reported.

“We had been breaking bread at 17,500 miles for every hour, going all over the earth each 90 minutes. And that was when my head exploded, and I experienced this epiphany about our earth and on the lookout back again at it, finding this issue termed the orbital viewpoint.”

It really is some thing astronauts attain as they gaze down at our planet as a whole.

“I consider we as a civilization want to acquire that issue that we get in space as astronauts,” he reported. “And we know that if we never work alongside one another as a staff, and we had been one particular of the most varied groups in space, then we (would) perish.”

Operating together is the only way Melvin thinks humanity can survive on this planet, get back again to the moon and get to Mars.

“The way we do it is with the right standpoint. And we bring this viewpoint household from area, to go back again to space as a civilization of diverse persons,” he explained. “It is really point of view jointly, that we perform collectively, we are living alongside one another, and we adjust the universe with each other.”

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Cary Douglas

About the Author: Cary Douglas

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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